Youth Services Charleston (YSC) and the national Earth Force organization formed a long-term partnership in March of 1998. Both partners wanted to expand opportunities for local youth to become actively involved in environmental problem solving. Each Earth Force site implements Community Action and Problem Solving (CAPS) programs. They are self-sustaining entities responsible for recruiting and training educators for the program, building a local Youth Advisory Board and Community Advisory Board, as well as fundraising, media outreach and anything else necessary to keep the local nonprofit sustainable for the long-term.
The Charleston area has many schools participating in the YSC Earth Force. The program reaches to Alice Birney Middle, Archibald Rutledge Academy, Ashley River Creative Arts, Bell Hall Elementary, Brentwood Middle, Buist Academy, Burke, CE Williams Middle, Clark Academy, Drayton Hall Middle, Hunley Park Elementary, Jennie Moore Elementary, Morningside Middle, Charles Pickney Elementary, Rivers Middle, Springfield Elementary, Sullivan’s Island Elementary, Trident Academy and Wando High. Children at all of these schools as well as administrators, parents and community members are affected by the work of YSC.
YSC Earth Force CAPS participants are provided with professional development, classroom support, resources, materials, and special opportunities. They are successful in connecting classrooms with the community and make their staff accessible for on-going support. The CAPS program itself is an excellent example of interdisciplinary education. The materials are well written, easy to follow and clearly aligned with educational standards. They involve the students with real-world experiences and high-level problem solving.
YSC Earth Force students have been involved in several important issues. Over the past two years, fifth grade students at Belle Hall Elementary School worked to get a bike bath built on the new Cooper River Bridge, created native plant gardens, designed an environmentally sound classroom, and addressed the declining pelican population on a barrier island. The students at Springfield Elementary worked to make Springfield a “green school.” They have saved the local declining swordfish population, developed good land-use plans for a local community, created a wetland habitat and educational center, coordinated a household hazardous waste education and recycling fair, and protected local endangered species habitat. Students at Rivers Middle School, an inner city school, addressed the issue of vacant lots and abandoned houses in the neighborhoods adjacent to their school. They presented their recommendations to the city council and continue to educate local officials on the issue of neglected properties in an effort to eliminate the eyesores and health hazards they present.
Though the YSC Earth Force is based in Charleston, their impact has reached as far as Washington, DC where they were able to present some of their findings about the declining swordfish population at a national press conference. YSC has enabled the Mayor of Charleston to reach one of his goals of training youth and educators in the civic process and providing them with the tools and support needed to make a lasing change in Charleston. By igniting the voices of the young people and taking civic action in their city, YSC Earth Force ensures that Charleston has capable and compassionate leaders now and in the future.